Why the MMA is Like Public Radio

    Post date: Monday, Jun 3, 2019
    By Janet Silversmith

    Another season of membership pledges has ended. No, not for the MMA, but for your local public radio station. A few times a year, over the course of several days, public radio issues a plea to its listeners to “become a member” and support their quality programming. Yet any of us can turn the radio dial and enjoy public radio’s news, music, and other programs whether we contribute and become members or not. The same is true of the MMA.

    The core “programming” the MMA provides is advocacy, education, engagement opportunities, and serving as a convener/collaborator to develop solutions to Minnesota’s health and health care challenges. Like public radio, all physicians benefit from the work of the MMA, whether a member or not. Economists refer to this as the “free-rider” problem – when individuals take advantage of a collective good or common resource without paying for it.  

    Like public radio, the MMA competes against other good causes and organizations for financial support. And, like radio stations, the options for physicians are vast – specialty societies, civic organizations, issue-focused organizations, to name just a few. Not every public radio supporter likes or takes advantage of the diverse programs produced, and there is rarely a direct personal return on investment. Rather, public radio supporters find overall value in the programming, believe it lifts the broader public’s knowledge, and, on balance, know that it would be missed if it didn’t exist.  The same is true of the MMA – no individual physician member supports every policy position of the MMA or attends each activity offered by the MMA, and individual, direct returns on investment can be limited; but MMA members find value in a statewide organization committed to the Minnesota medical profession and believe there would be a serious void if the MMA did not exist.

    Unlike public radio, the MMA does not have ready access to the airwaves to try to persuade physicians to invest in MMA’s programming. Instead, the MMA is working hard to reach individual physicians and medical practice leadership in new ways to articulate MMA’s value – whether it is our policy development; our legislative advocacy; our legal advocacy; our work to improve the health of Minnesotans; our accreditation of continuing medical education across the state; our efforts to address administrative burdens that are among the systemic causes of physician burnout/dissatisfaction; our work to make quality measurement more relevant and meaningful; our work to improve health equity; our work to improve patient safety; our work to support appropriate opioid prescribing; our work to influence national policies through our delegation to the AMA; our work to support physician collegiality; our work through our local components to, for example, improve advance care planning; or, our work to offer timely and relevant news and information about the practice of medicine in Minnesota.

    We need your help. You are a bearing a disproportionate share of the cost of sustaining the work of the MMA because too many of your colleagues are free riders. This fact limits MMA’s reach and effectiveness. Please take a moment and ask your colleagues if they are MMA members and, if not, ask them to step up and support the voice of medicine in Minnesota. Specialty societies will always play a critical role for physicians, and just as all of use enjoy immersing ourselves in classical, country, jazz, or other “specialty” radio stations, the beauty of MMA, like public radio, is that it is the only place where Minnesota physicians of diverse specialties, perspectives, and opinions can come together to create a strong, collective voice for medical professionals in Minnesota.

    Thanks for your support.
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